Regina’s Co-op Refinery on the verge of a work stoppage
Unifor Local 594 rejected refinery management's final offer after a year of failed labour negotiations; the refinery is preparing for limited operations as Saskatchewan farmers need oil for spring planting
REGINA—A work stoppage looms as workers at Regina’s Co-op Refinery Complex have rejected management’s final offer, after a year of failed labour negotiations between the two parties.
Unifor Local 594, which represents workers at the oil refinery, is standing firm.
“Workers have sent a crystal clear message to Co-op’s management: drop the concessions,” said Kevin Bittman, Local 594 president. “Co-op’s owners are massively profitable. Demanding concessions from the workers who contribute to Co-op’s success is unnecessary and unfair.”
Unifor says the Co-op Refinery made upwards of $500-million in profit in 2016.
Earlier this month, the City of Regina granted a housing permit for temporary structures near the refinery, for what Unifor says will house replacement workers in the event of a strike.
“Forcing us onto a picket line is one thing, but attempting to run a large-scale refinery with a skeleton replacement crew with questionable qualifications is a public safety risk,” said Bittman. “The City Council has potentially endangered residents by caving into Co-op’s demands.”
Unifor is imploring the City of Regina to revoke the housing permit and force Co-op’s managers back to the bargaining table.
The collective agreement between Local 594 and Co-op expired in Jaunary 2016. There have been 21 rounds of negotiations, until an impasse was reached in January 2017.
Co-op management is disheartened that the union rejected what they’ve stipulated is their final offer.
“The refinery has never had a labour disruption in our history because we have always regarded the union as our partners,” said Gil Le Dressay, VP of operations at the Co-op Refinery.
Le Dressay asserted that Co-op came to the table with a fair offer intended to protect current employees’ wages and benefits.
“These are tough times in Saskatchewan and tough times in the oil and gas industry,” he said. “Yet, in spite of that, we did not ask for job cuts, wage cuts or rollbacks of any kind. In fact, we offered wage increases and additional job security consistent with the national bargaining pattern set by Unifor and Suncor.”
The Co-op VP said that the refinery will be ready to supply farmers with the fuel they need to undertake spring seeding, but that in the event of a labour stoppage production levels will be decreased to ensure safe operations.
“We want to be talking to our union partners face-to-face, instead of through the media, and we hope that happens soon,” Le Dressay said, urging the union to return to the bargaining table.